We lined up on Runway 8 at Denver the other day, bound for Washington-Dulles, first officer flying, me laughing. (Our briefing guide requires that the pilot whose turn it is to fly specifically states who will fly the plane. It usually comes out like, “I’m flying, you’re laughing.”) But I didn’t have too much reason to laugh because Pete Carlson, an ex-Navy pilot, knew his stuff.
I love to get Navy pilots as first officers. When I do, I usually append this statement to my welcome aboard message to the passengers: “Flying our aircraft today, is First Officer Pete Carlson, a former US Navy pilot. But don’t let that concern you. I’m a former USAF pilot and I intend to watch him closely.”
I lined the 757 up on the runway and gave it to Pete (the captain taxis the plane because the ground steering tiller is on his side). As we waited for clearance to roll Pete pointed in front of him. “Look! A stink bug!” Sure enough, a big ugly stink bug sat clinging to the outside of Pete’s windshield. “He’s trying to hitch a ride to Dulles!”
I wasn't happy about him not paying for his passage. We don’t run this airline for charity, you know. I don’t like it when stink bugs and former Board members freeload on my plane. But stink bugs may be dumb, but not stupid.
Why, I pondered, was the bug so determined to leave Denver. Could it have been the political shenanigans going on there this week? Even stink bugs must have their olfactory limitations. But then, did he know our destination? If he were trying to escape the hype, rhetoric and speechifying he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
I asked Pete how long the bug would last. He said he’d be gone before the airspeed needle comes “alive” at 60 knots. I disagreed, said the bug would come off at 65 knots. Before we could agree on stakes for the bet we got takeoff clearance.
Pete released the brakes and I set the power. I kept my eyes roving quickly between the engine instruments, the airspeed needle and the bug. When the needle came alive the bug was still there. Through 65 knots, and he was still there. I could almost hear him jeering at us in bug-speak: “You can’t do it, suckers! You can’t. You won’t get me off!”
So, at what speed did the bug come off? Did the bug come off? Post your guess in the blog comments, or if you're shy about posting you can e-mail me. Remember that we measure airspeed in knots vs. mph. Each knot is about 1.15 mph. I’ll announce the proud winner in the next update. And what do you think of my opinion as to why the bug sought to depart Denver? Does it stink? Feel free to post your own hypothesis of the bug’s motives.
Here’s a visual treat: an opposing 747 crossing 1,000 feet above us. Awesome sight.